Light and high voltage electron microscopy (HVEM) procedures have been employed to examine the processes regulating saltatory motion in neurons. Light microscope studies demonstrate that organelle transport occurs by rapid bidirectional saltations along linear pathways in cultured neuroblastoma cells. HVEM stereo images of axons reveal that microtubules (Mts) and organelles are suspended in a continuous latticework of fine microtrabecular filaments and that the Mts and lattice constitute a basic cytoskeletal structure mediating the motion of particles along axons. We propose that particle transport depends on dynamic properties of nonstatic microtrabecular lattice components. EXperiments were initiated to determine the effects of changes in divalent cation concentrations (Ca2+ and Mg2+) on: (a)the continuation of transport and (b) the corresponding structural properties of the microtrabecular lattice. We discovered that transport continues or is stimulated to a limited extent in cells exposed to small amounts of exogenously supplied Ca2+ and Mg2+ ions (less than 0.1 mM). Exposure of neurons to increased dosages of Ca2+ and Mg2+ (0.2-1.0 mM) stimulates transport for 2-4 min at 37 degrees C, but after a 5- to 20-min exposure the saltatory movements of organelles are observed gradually to become shorter in duration and rate particle motion ceases to occur. HVEM observations demonstrated that Ca2+ - and with the cessation of motion. Ca2+-containing solutions produced contractions of the microtrabecular filaments, whereas Mg2+-containing solutions had the opposing effect of stimulating an elongation and assembly (expansion) of microtrabeculae. On the basis of these observations we hypothesize that cycles of Ca2+/Mg2+-coupled contractions and expansions of the microtrabecular lattice probably regulate organelle motion in nerve cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.